The Thriller/Espionage genre is a favorite of mine so I was excited about Jack Carr’s debut novel “The Terminal List”. Lt. Commander James Reece lost his entire SEAL unit save one in an Afghanistan spec ops that went bad from the get-go. Making matters worse, Reece had resisted accepting the assignment because of the way it came down from above with no pre-planning and none of the attention to detail for which the SEAL teams are noted. Reece is eaten up with guilt while he’s hospitalized only to find that his pregnant wife and three year old little girl have been brutally and savagely murdered in their home. Devastation and bewilderment can’t begin to describe his reactions but as he slowly emerges from his miasma of grief and despair he begins to look for some logical explanation as to “why”. The answer to his question is a list of names of the people pulling the strings that toppled his world and he sets about methodically eliminating and then crossing off each name as he avenges the death of his family. Lt. Commander James Reece is a veritable killing machine and he’s not taking any prisoners.
Jack Carr has a great future as a writer of fiction. His writing is certainly a cut above average, his prose is polished and his characters’ dialogue authentic. That said, I wish he had let his glossary of governmental alphabet soup accompany each abbreviation in the text rather than as an appendix. The reader is left to either constantly flip back and forth for explanations or just give up and read on in ignorance. I read on.
The plot is not a mystery because we know where Reece is headed. But the savagery with which he executes his mission is disturbing on many levels. The desire to avenge his family’s murders is understandable but no less brutal and even barbaric. If Carr’s end-game was to air his political views that America has lost her soul to the liberals, he didn’t convince this reader but I’m confident his message resonated with others. He seems to be emulating Brad Thor in that respect. In my opinion, a fiction writer’s first obligation is to inform and entertain his readers. Thor does that in spades. Carr will likely get there but I suggest he not beat his readers over the head with a hammer to accomplish his mission. The headaches just ain’t worth it. Four stars.
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